In the City by the Bay...the fog is gone, fall is in the air, and the tourist count has dwindled a bit. So, if you have about 3-4 weekend hours to spare, let's go to a few San Francisco spots that most folks (locals included) may have HEARD about, but never actually checked out. Be prepared, 'cause this outing will be packed with a surprising amount of content and other off-beat "sights". And, as is my wont, I will sometimes stop and share my enthusiastic knowledge for local history and geography.
We start by meeting at the San Francisco Railway Museum (near Embarcadero Bart stop) where you can take in some colorful history on San Francisco transit systems. We will stay just long enough to view a fascinating video on the colorful history of San Francisco's transit systems. The video takes you on a cable car ride down Market Street, a few days prior to the 1906 quake (or click here). After the short video, we will catch a vintage streetcar (F-line, $2) to the Pier 39 end point -- the streetcar being a donated or castaway antique from a major world city.
No plans to explore Pier 39 -- we will disembark and stroll straight through the F'Wharf tourist district, dodging the t-shirt shops, a bushman, and other odd fixtures -- though you might care to grab a snack or lunch items along the way. Our goal will actually be to reach the Hyde Street historic pier ($5). Assuming the government shut-down has ended (it's part of the national park system!), you will be able to board some fine relics of the Bay Area's romantic maritime transit past -- including a three-square masted sailing ship and a huge steam power car ferry, which was the pre-GGB transit mode to get to Marin county and back. Allow for about 1 1/2 hours, including lunch break.
At around 1:00 pm or so, we will queue up for the Powell-Hyde street line ($6) at Victorian Park, just up the street from the Hyde street pier. We will hop on the little "cable car to the stars" which will literally be pulled up Russian Hill at the heady pace of 9.5 mph. We will then disembark at the corner of Washington & Mason for our next hot spot -- the Cable Car Museum. More than just a museum of the only operating cable car service in the world -- it actually houses the power-distribution source for the entire system, a kind of 19th century "steam-punk" throw-back to a maze of whirring, spinning gear systems, sheaves, and pulleys.
And, not to be missed...if you'll follow me on a stroll North on Mason, you'll discover a (much) lesser known San Francisco micro-park of steep steps and incredible vistas out to the Gate, the Bay, Chinatown, and Downtown. Whew. I expect this will wrap around 3:00 pm. Not only that, if you want to "take it to the next level", Chinatown is only a few blocks away...